|During a spacewalk yesterday, astronaut Stephen Bowen freed a snagged cable hindering an inspection of the space shuttle Atlantis. (NASA via Getty Images)|
Astronaut untangles boom so shuttle can be inspected
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A spacewalking astronaut freed a snagged cable on the inspection boom for shuttle Atlantis yesterday, accomplishing the job in a matter of minutes and earning a “superhero’’ title.
With that behind him, Stephen Bowen whipped through a slew of space station battery replacements.
Bowen and his spacewalking partner, Michael Good, plugged in four new batteries at the International Space Station and repaired a loose antenna.
The tangled cable had prevented the shuttle astronauts from thoroughly inspecting their ship for any possible damage from last week’s launch. NASA wanted it fixed as soon as possible and added the chore to yesterday’s spacewalk, the second in three days.
Astronauts working inside moved the end of the 100-foot inspection boom within easy reach of Bowen.
“Keep coming. Another 6 inches or so,’’ Bowen called out. “Perfect. Stop.’’
A few minutes later, he announced: “I have it unsnagged.’’
“Well done, superhero,’’ shuttle pilot Dominic “Tony’’ Antonelli radioed from inside.
As he was tying the cord back so it wouldn’t get tangled again in camera equipment on the boom, Bowen discovered another wire tie that was already there and causing the cable to get hung up. He slid the loose wire tie into a position Mission Control deemed adequate. Indeed, the camera-tilting system on the boom later checked out fine in a series of tests.
The bulk of the seven-hour spacewalk involved the batteries on the far left side of the space station. The batteries were somewhat cumbersome to handle — 3-foot boxes weighing 375 pounds apiece — but the astronauts managed to replace four of them, one more than planned.
Bowen and Good were running so far ahead that they also squeezed in some antenna work.
They tightened bolts on a spare antenna that was installed earlier in the week, then wiggled it to make sure it was secure.
Two more batteries will be replaced tomorrow during the third and final spacewalk of Atlantis’s mission.
This is Atlantis’s final flight as the shuttle program winds down. Only two missions remain, later this year.